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  • Rob Houghton

The Right Kinda Company


On October 21st, I did a blog titled, “The Right Kinda Guy” discussing the attributes of an RKG. The response to that blog was so overwhelming with requests to describe, “The Right Kinda Company” that I decided to discuss the attributes of an RKC…the Right Kinda Company.


The Right Kind of Company? Yes, the RKC is the sort of organization that everyone wants to work for. It’s the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball, the LA Lakers of the NBA, and the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL. Playing for any one of these teams for a professional athlete is the touchstone of their career.


So what about the corporate world? Who are the RKCs? The ones that immediately come to mind are Apple. Amazon. Southwest Airlines. Visa. Goldman Sachs, Google? Do any of these firms ring a bell? Most college graduates would literally kill to get a job with one of these firms.


But are all of these RKCs?


Let’s take a closer look. The ACTUAL list may surprise you. In a WSJ article published on October 15th (Page B1), the WSJ published a listing of The Top 50 firms to work for to get ahead. Based on an exhaustive research study, these ARE the 50 best places to work to climb the career ladder.

But let’s not focus on the specific firms. More importantly, I will focus on what exactly makes these firms – well, great firms.


Here are the Top Ten:

  • AT&T

  • AMEX

  • Cisco

  • PG&E

  • Microsoft

  • Fiserv

  • HF Sinclair

  • Liberty Mutual Insurance

  • International Paper

  • Southwest Airlines

  • CIGNA (#15)


In my experience working with clients for the past 20 years, here are the characteristics of an RKC:

  • Purpose: Great firms have a well-defined purpose. A vision. And not ten things. Three things. That’s it. And everyone should be able to communicate this from the mail person to the CEO. If it can’t be explained in an elevator, it doesn’t exist.

  • Great Leaders: My #1 criteria working for or with any organization is they HAVE to have great leaders – a great leader at the top and others sprinkled throughout – my best clients have great leaders from top to bottom. Great leaders want to win. Earlier in my professional career, I always wanted to work for leaders who wanted to win. I grew up wanting to win. Winning at sports in school. Wining in the classroom. Winning with the girls. Working at whatever part-time I ever had. Working with military SOF through the years, I always wanted my teams to win – on and off the battlefield. And now, in my recruiting business, I want to WIN. Every day.

  • Retention: Show me a company with a revolving door of top talent and I will show you a poorly run firm. When I discuss an opportunity with a candidate, one of their questions is always, “what is their retention like…?” It is true: All of my best and most successful clients have extraordinary retention. I just finished placing three account managers in a Virginia Beach-based insurance agency that had to replace three staff who had worked there for a combined 122 years! People aren’t stupid. They stay because the firm gives them a reason to.

  • Assessments/Testing: Assessment tests don’t lie. I have one particular client who has this very complicated and difficult assessment test that all candidates have to take at the front end of the process. Prospective candidates had been telling me how hard this test was so I took it myself. I have an advanced degree and, yes, it was VERY difficult PLUS it is timed. But you know what? It nailed my strengths, weaknesses, and aptitude for certain positions. Scary stuff. Assessment tests are carefully concocted by experts and they are deadly accurate. Skills and attributes sought in these tests are in direct alignment with the client’s corporate requirements, strategy, vision, and culture. Bingo. My retention percentage with this client for those working there for at least three years is over 96%. Industry average? 39%.

  • Attributes: Attributes trump skills and experience. Many of you know from previous blogs and podcasts, that I have a list of 12 attributes (email me for the complete list) that the most successful people have in their professions. Top Four: Determination, Insight, Intellectual Curiosity, and People Skills. There are eight others. The clients who hire on attributes more than skills and experience are the ones in the rocket ship right now.

  • Promotions: If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. And this is THE problem with small mom & pop firms. You are simply limited by the limited capacity of the firm. The hope is to grow from a paper airplane into a rocket ship someday, but the reality is this is very rare. Tough to pull off. It’s why I don’t represent small mom & pop firms. The most upside I have seen with insurance brokerage firms are those between 15 – 100 employees and then just ride the wave. I have one client who grew from 17 employees to 63 in five years and another that grew from 19 staff to 136 within six years. Do you think the candidates I placed there got promoted? Hell yes, they did.

  • Velocity: Velocity is how fast are people getting promoted. Are key employees stagnant because there is that one person who has been in the same leadership role for 20 years? These folks will leave your firm. Get creative. Move some folks around. Cross train that 20-year veteran. Give them something refreshing – challenge them. The point is that your fuel mixture for this rocket ship needs to be fresh and maybe even a little volatile.

  • Compensation: Don’t be a Cheap F*&%. Many of you know that I do an annual salary compensation report sent to all my clients and soon thereafter published on my LinkedIn account. It’s okay to hire B players within your budget parameters, but the RKGs out there are not cheap. Did you find a superstar? Pay the man. Don’t be a CF.


If you would like a copy of the latest 2022 Mid-Atlantic Insurance Salary Survey or the List of 12 Attributes, then just email me directly at rhoughton@mrfairfax.com


Warmest Regards!

Rob Houghton

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